Ron DeSantis found his groove way too late

(Michael Dwyer/Associated Press)

Ron DeSantis found his groove way too late

Opinion piece, Elections 2024

Scott Jennings

January 21, 2024

There was a moment when the governor of Florida. Ron DeSantis seemed the best choice for the Republican Party to leave Donald Trump behind. That moment on election night in November 2022 and in the few weeks that followed passed quickly. Trump used the spring of 2023 to reconsolidate and restore his dominant position in the party, with a little help from Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg and Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith.

DeSantis hesitated and waited 197 days




huge re-election victory as governor of Florida to launch his


presidential campaign in May 2023 of the following year. By means of

then that time

Trump was back at work and taking advantage of his numerous legal entanglements, like the drivers in the Fast and Furious franchise who use nitrous oxide.

During a CNN-produced town hall event

Tuesday January 16th

DeSantis said: If Donald Trump is the nominee, the election will be about all these legal issues, his trials, maybe convictions if he goes to trials and loses, and about issues like January 6th.

He meant that as a warning


fellow Republicans. And he was right. But the question is whether Republican voters actually see all these legal issues as a problem. It turns out there will be a referendum on Trump’s mistreatment (as his voters see it) and subsequent legal troubles


Most Republicans of the race seem to want this November. Nothing will feel better to them than seeing Trump beat Biden fair and square, a moment of euphoric vindication.

DeSantis rightly noted in his dropout video that a majority of Republican primary voters want to give Donald Trump another chance. They saw his presidency stymied by brutal resistance, and they saw Democrats today using the law to attack him.

DeSantis and several other candidates have argued from the start that Trump can’t win if he has problems

instead of Biden’s myriad problems,

are front and center

instead of Biden’s myriad problems

. But the national polls at the moment certainly don’t support that. Republican voters seem to have concluded that Biden’s weakness means he is destined to lose, so they might as well beat him with the person who would provide the most personal satisfaction: Trump. .

DeSantis faced quite the onslaught. Trump attacked him mercilessly and viciously from start to finish. So did the “Never Trump” crowd. That’s what the Democrats did. And the political media. For a time, DeSantis united a group of people who supposedly hate each other, but


need Trump-flavored air and water to stay alive. So they joined forces to bury the man who posed the greatest threat to that ecosystem.

DeSantis, of course, helped them by avoiding the kinds of media opportunities that could have allowed him to push back on the more ridiculous attacks he faced. He ultimately changed course late in the race and was actually quite sharp with the so-called corporate media he often mocks. But by then the damage had already been done.

DeSantis saw more negative attack ads than anyone else


candidate in the race, from either party. From January 8, hey should have paid more than $44 million in negative attacks from independent groups. By comparison, Trump and Biden did


faced with just $21 million in vitriol



DeSantis has been a technically good candidate in recent months, despite the internal drama of his campaign. His public appearances were bright. He provided solid content during the town hall meetings. He defeated former

South Carolina Gov. Nikki

Haley in a debate in Des Moines, just before beating her in Iowa


But by the time he found his feet, it was too late. Trump voters tell pollsters there is nothing that will change their minds. DeSantis


The exit leaves one (semi) serious candidate in the race against Trump Haley, and she will probably be gone sooner or later. Trump is leading her in the polls in New Hampshire ahead of Tuesday’s primaries, and that’s the most fertile ground she’ll ever get.

These primaries are effectively over and we face a long general election campaign between two candidates with significant weaknesses. It


It’s not clear to me what the benefit is, but the rematch that the American people have repeatedly told pollsters they don’t want is now upon us.

Scott Jennings is a former special assistant to President George W. Bush and a senior political commentator at CNN.



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